On December 23rd 1997, the Ghana government announced that 110 former state enterprises had been divested as part of the economic restructuring policy. State-owned enterprises in Ghana date to the colonial period and especially to the post-World War II era. For example, the British organized a number of public utilities, such as water, electricity, postal and telegraph services, rail and road networks, and bus services. To foster exports of coffee, palm kernels, and cocoa, the Agricultural Produce Marketing Board was founded in 1949. In addition, the colonial government established the Industrial Development Corporation and the Agricultural Development Corporation to promote industries and agriculture.
Between 1966 and 1972, subsequent governments pursued, more or less consistently, a policy of shifting the emphasis in development to the private sector. Even so, the public enterprise sector continued to grow. A feature of this period was the separation of a number of government departments from the main civil service and their establishment as statutory corporations. Examples include the Post and Telecommunications Corporation and the Electricity Corporation of Ghana.
By the 1980s, state enterprises were suffering along with most businesses in Ghana, but they were also held to blame for the economy's general condition. In particular, many were heavily subsidized and were draining much of the country's domestic loan capital. Under pressure from the World Bank and in accordance with the principles of the ERP, in 1984 the government began to sell state enterprises to private investors, and it initiated the State Owned Enterprise Reform Program in 1988.
In 1984 there were 235 state enterprises in Ghana. The government announced that twenty-two sensitive enterprises would not be sold, including major utilities as well as transport, cocoa, and mining enterprises. In 1988 thirty-two were put up for sale, followed by a further forty-four in 1990 under what was termed the Divestiture Implementation Committee. By December 1990, thirty-four enterprises had been either partially or totally divested. Four were sold outright, a further eight were partially sold through share issues, and twenty-two were liquidated. Divestiture of fifteen additional enterprises was also underway, and by 1992 plans were afoot to privatize some of the nation's banks.
Joint ventures were set up for four enterprises, including two state mining companies, Prestea Goldfields and Ghana Consolidated Diamonds. In 1992 the Divestiture Implementation Committee considered resource-pooling programs to enable smaller domestic investors to buy up state enterprises. Such pooling would accelerate the program, but more importantly, it would enable the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) to deflect charges that it was auctioning off the nation's assets to foreigners.
By 1993, the first round of the programme had seen some 55 SOEs privatised. Then came the second round which was implemented by another government agency, the Divestiture Implementation Committee (DIC). The DIC was established by the Divestiture of State Interests (Implementation) Act, 1993. Just into the second year of work, the DIC saw some 195 more SOEs privatised”.
The role of SOEs and how their role in the economy continue to be an emotive political issue with ramifications affecting employment, domestic debt and the health of the banking sector.